The Un-Newsletter

the un-newsletter

So I am feeling bored by standard email newsletters. I’m not alone but I am most certainly not anti-newsletter either. The newsletter has been and continues to be an effective tool but maybe we should reconsider how we approach it?

Does your newsletter have to be newsy?

I suspect when we think email newsletter, we focus on the “news” part and envision something text-heavy and long. That’s still what many newsletters look like in my inbox anyway, and I suspect that’s the format you usually see too. But what if we undid the newsletter, to take the focus off the news part and put it where it should be: on the customer?

If we focus on the customer and why we are emailing them in the first place, we remember that a) they are busy, mobile and attention-challenged, and b) we aren’t sending them newsletters to educate them in general but to engage them. Keeping these two points in mind, we can totally rethink the email newsletter and create something totally new but still get the results we all want.

Some un-newsletter ideas to get you thinking.

I don’t have dozens of wonderful un-newsletters to share with you. That’s because most of what ends up in my inbox is just what I am suggesting you avoid: the text heavy and lengthy format. Nevertheless here are some ways you could consider un-newsing your newsletter to create something totally new that still serves the customer and engages them:

  1. Digest it.
    Rather than send a couple truncated, or worse full, articles to your subscribers, consider doing a digest instead. We do a digest of blog posts from time to time, which enables us to send a very digestible mobile-friendly newsletter. Running short of content or ideas? You can also do a digest of others’ content, or take the dedicated approach of Hacker Newsletter or theSkimm and pull together a digest with your own editorial slant.
  1. Down-and-dirty surveys.
    What if your email newsletter was intended to easily solicit and share feedback? And then you shared the answers in the next issue? For example, a brand could ask, “What is your biggest challenge to ____?” make the survey quick, tell them them it will be quick, deliver on that promise and in the next issue, share the answers. People like to know what others are going through and how they address those challenges.
  1. Drop the verbiage.
    OK, I don’t mean leave all of the words, but what if your newsletter was a comic or illustration or photos or a short video? Instead of asking people to read 500 words, you got your point across in a 60-second video? Or you hired an illustrator to do a weekly comic? Or you created a chart or infographic to visualize the information you’d otherwise use words for?
  1. Rethink the look.
    Even if you decide the text-heavy-handful-of-articles approach is still the right one for your brand and your customers, you can make it more appealing with design that doesn’t actually look like a newsletter. A great email designer/thinker can do a lot to make content easier to consume especially in the mobile age.
  1. Ask for the money.
    Often times a marketer’s email newsletters are actually too educational. Ask subscribers to take the next step logical step. After all, ‘marketing’ is the email marketing newsletter’s middle name.

In my business, I get—and send—a lot of email newsletters, so we’re pushing clients and ourselves to rethink the email newsletter and take a different approach, one that takes the emphasis off the news and puts it where it should be: on the subscriber and the sender’s ROI.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Email Industries (the folks behind IndiemarkBlackBox, Formswell and Email Critic). Connect him everywhere, here.

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